Acerola antioxidant could replace synthetic additive banned in many countries and still used in Brazil

Acerola antioxidant could replace synthetic additive banned in many countries and still used in Brazil
In tests at the USP, microparticles produced from unripe fruit performed similarly to the synthetic compound TBHQ found in processed foods and cosmetics. The results were published in the journal. Foods of the Future (photo: collection of researchers)

May 13, 2022

Karina Lullaby | FAPESP Agency – Antioxidants are important ingredients for the food and cosmetic industry as they delay the oxidation process of mayonnaise, margarine, moisturizing creams and similar products rich in lipids. Most of the antioxidants currently used are synthetic, and products that are already banned in other countries are still used, such as TBHQ (tert-butyl-hydroquinone) in Brazil.

In search of natural alternatives, a group of researchers from the University of São Paulo (USP) are studying the phenolic compounds of acerola and have succeeded in extracting antioxidant microparticles as effective as TBHQ from the green fruit. The focus of research supported by FAPESP is to develop a process that can be easily adopted on an industrial scale. final results disclosure in the magazine Foods of the Future.

“There are several studies proving the existence of antioxidant compounds from different sources. But how can we ensure that substances of interest and great use can be produced on an industrial scale in a technically and economically viable way? Many studies in the field of biochemistry are carried out on benches or with very small samples, without the condition of being taken to the industry. Our aim is to work with processes to obtain products with general content, with the intention of practical application,” he summarizes. Thais Maria Ferreira de Souza VieiraProfessor in the Department of Agricultural Industry, Nutrition and Food at the Luiz de Queiroz Agricultural College (Esalq-USP).

With representative examples (5 to 10 kilos of fruit) and using only water or ethanol as solvent – ​​petroleum derivatives were avoided because of their toxicity – the study sought to optimize processes to increase efficiency. – price the compounds of interest as much as possible and at the same time reduce energy expenditures and input costs.

“The group colleagues were already working with acerola and in previous studies they compared green and ripe fruit and showed that green acerola has more antioxidant compounds than ripe. What happens is that there are ripe and unripe fruit harvested together on the same tree. “It leaves it unattractive. So we understand that using these green berries to produce a natural antioxidant is a good strategy.” Bianca Ferraz Teixeirafirst author of the article and scholarship Scientific initiation in FAPESP.

Process and tests

Samples from a large producer in Junqueirópolis (SP) were washed and lyophilized (subjected to a food dehydrating treatment) for characterization and homogenization. The extract was obtained by adding water to the lyophilized samples, and then the material was filtered by centrifugation.

“This extract has been atomized spray dryer [equipamento que promove a secagem do alimento por pulverização e é usada, por exemplo, na produção de leite em pó] and so we got microparticles. We chose spray dryer because it is already a widely used method in the industry. It makes it possible to convert the acerola extract into a powdered antioxidant that can be simply stored, marketed and used without oxidation. Finally, it can replace TBHQ, which is also used in powder form, does not spoil easily and mixes well with the product without causing any change in color, taste or aroma”, explains Teixeira.

To test the efficacy of the microparticles, the researchers made an oil, emulsifier, and water-based emulsion similar to that found in a variety of products, including mayonnaise, salad dressings, and cosmetics, and divided the samples into three groups: the first was an additive. TBHQ received the second acerola microparticles and the third (control group) remained without any additives.

“We added the concentration permitted by current regulations for the synthetic antioxidant and various concentrations of microencapsulated acerola powder. And we found that the latter was just as effective as TBHQ at the same concentration,” Teixeira says.

Vieira explains that testing in the model system (water-in-oil) is ideal for exploring the product’s application possibilities and finding out at what concentration the acerola powder is effective. “Commercially produced natural antioxidants already exist. However, there is no benefit to having a naturally sourced encapsulated product that requires large application quantities to be effective as cost is often a barrier. The antioxidant also cannot alter the appearance, color or flavor of the final product. analyzed and no sensory difference was found between the samples containing synthetic antioxidants and the acerola-based product.


Teixeira recalls that acerola has a high concentration of ascorbic acid (vitamin C), which is not considered a phenolic compound, but has a high antioxidant activity. “The fruit also contains ferulic acid, chlorogenic acid and coumaric acid. But tests show that in the case of green acerola, ascorbic acid is the most abundant,” he reports.

The researcher reiterates that the effectiveness of acerola is similar to that of synthetic antioxidants. “It was the first product with the same performance among all the products we tested in the laboratory. We used TBHQ as a beacon as it is a very efficient substance. However, in France, Japan and the United States this synthetic antioxidant is no longer used in practice. So it is very effective and its application Finding a natural alternative that is so easy is quite a feat.”

Article Replacing synthetic antioxidants in food emulsions with microparticles from green acerola (Malpighia marginalized) available at:


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